After 18 months of running Foodinriga.com, my jaw hurts from repeatedly hitting the ground due to the unparalleled lack of professionalism that I have encountered in the line of duty. Some businesses seem to be run for the sole purpose of going bankrupt with the least possible delay. Many restaurants fail in even the most basic of basics, and there's just no end to the madness I've witnessed. Sadly, Riga's latest Indian restaurant, the newly opened Taj Mahal, has already put the shovel in the ground to dig itself an early grave. Vultures are looming overhead.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Or wait, let's.
”she also put her finger in his beer”
Located in a former sex shop on Čaka, Taj Mahal is one of the ugliest, cheapest-looking restaurants in Riga right now. It has exactly the same brothel vibe going as restaurant Fei-Fei, except that Taj Mahal comes in purple instead of red. A girl in the Foodinriga.com test patrol commented that it looks like they simply took down the dildos from the shelves and replaced them with booze. The fact that the waitress showed more boob than I've seen in way too long didn't really change this impression.
I suspect that it wasn't only me who thought ”is there a polite way of sneaking out of here unnoticed”, but when the chef spotted us and came to greet us, we were past the point of no return. So, we sat down at a table and smiled apologetically at each other. Let the circus begin.
To preface this part of the review: Would John Cleese ever set his foot here, he would have enough material for a whole new season of Fawlty Towers. After that warm greeting by the chef (an Indian guy who, in all fairness, was one of the friendliest dudes I've met during my restaurant adventures) everything went downhill. The menu came on plain white A4:s, because ”we didn't receive the real menus yet”. Also, it was by no means complete, and among the main dishes was French fries. Yes. How very Indian. After the chef held a small monologue about the dishes which weren't on the menu, we managed to order. But only after the chef and boob girl debated, perfectly audible beside our table, who of them was going to wait on us. Then it was boob girl's turn to run the show.
”it was like chewing rocks”
She almost managed to place cutlery on the table. One guy in our crew got two forks and a spoon, but boob girl didn't seem to mind. She also put her finger in his beer, but seemed completely at ease about it. After a while came our food. Not very simultaneously. Not very hot. Not very satisfying. Those of us who ordered chili chicken almost had to call the dentist. I have never eaten chicken this dry and hard before. It was like chewing rocks. The chef claimed it should be this way, but... stone chicken is not a part of the Indian cuisine that I know and love. The same goes for the butter chicken. Flavor wise it wasn't a disaster, but you better keep that dentist on speed dial. The squid fry got a massive thumbs down from the guy whose beer tasted of finger, and our two vegetarians received some kind of fruit salad which they vividly described as [not fit for print].
”this is torture”
While we're still eating our food, boob girl suddenly attacks us and asks if we want to pay with card or cash. Uhm, normally you wait for your guests' signal before asking, or at least let them finish their meals. Maybe we would have liked to order something more? Also, she made things even worse by saying to our face that ”this is torture” when we asked for separate bills.
The whole thing just baffles me. If you're serious about your business, there are a few simple rules to follow. Before opening a restaurant to the public, a true professional checks the following things off the list:
- Make sure the restaurant and its interior looks exactly how you want it to look.
- Make sure that you have proper menus.
- Make sure you have all the ingredients you need to cook everything on the menu.
- Make sure to have at least one final rehearsal with actual dinner guests, as this will help you ensure that everything runs smoothly once you finally open your restaurant.
- Last but not least – see to it that people know about you and know exactly when you are going to open. We only knew about it because we are fans of Indian food, so we did some detective work, found a phone number and called and asked.
- Oh, and also, please make a proper website before you open. It's 2015 – there is just no excuse for not having a website.
If any of these things can't be checked off the list, postpone the opening. It's never as important to impress your guests as it is when you have just opened. That's when you really have to make a huge impression to create a buzz.
Taj Mahal seem completely oblivious to all of these things. And what scares me is that it should take a food critic like me to point these things out. These are very basic things that you should be well aware of before even hatching the idea of opening a restaurant. And it saddens me. I really wish Taj Mahal, and the super friendly chef, all the best. I want them to succeed. But right now, they just don't make the cut. They are not even close. Especially the food isn't nearly good enough. So get your shit together, all of it, and do it fast. Right now, you're headed at blinding speed towards the over-crowded cemetery of dead Riga restaurants.
No website, Aleksandra Čaka iela 47/1